Senator Bong Go gave the impression that he has decided to withdraw from the 2022 presidential race in a Malacañang meeting with governors, according to two people present.
“In very clear terms, he said he would withdraw,” said one politician present at the meeting on Wednesday, November 24.
Cagayan Governor Manuel Mamba, in a phone call with Rappler on Friday, November 26, also said this was his interpretation of Go’s remarks.
“Umatras siya (He is backing out). The governors, other officials present, were all surprised. Nagtitinginan sila. ‘Paano na kami (They kept looking at each other, seemingly asking, ‘What about us)?'” said Mamba.
Mamba and the other politicians’ interpretation of Go’s remarks was different from that of Presidential Adviser on Political Affairs Jacinto “Jing” Paras. To Paras, it seemed that Go expressed doubts about his presidential bid but that he could still change his mind.
But to Mamba and the source, Go’s decision appeared final.
The senator supposedly cried during the meeting. Those present were told that President Rodrigo Duterte was late to the evening gathering because he was “trying to convince Go to stay in the race,” said the source.
An early part of the meeting involved the governors, all of whom were Duterte allies, expressing their support for Go one by one. Go was then asked to respond. It was at this point when the senator was quoted as saying, “Hindi ko pa panahon (It’s not yet my time),” and shared his other concerns about joining the presidential race.
Yet Paras is equally convinced that Go’s expression of doubts about his presidential bid was “not serious” and that Duterte and Go would announce in a few days that the senator is pushing through with his campaign.
PDP-Laban (Cusi faction) told Rappler that things remain “business as usual” in the party in relation to Go’s presidential campaign.
Duterte to say ‘neutral’?
But what sealed the deal for Mamba was when Duterte, at the end of the meeting, addressed the governors.
“The cat is out of the bag,” was the first thing the Chief Executive supposedly said.
Eventually, Duterte said that with Go out of the picture, he would not support any other presidential bet.
“Magneutral na lang ako. I’ll just keep quiet. Hindi ako nag-agree sa decision ni Sara but she is my daughter, obligado ako mahalin siya,” went Duterte, according to Mamba.
(I’ll just be neutral. I’ll just keep quiet. I don’t agree with Sara’s decision but she is my daughter and I am obligated to love her.)
Duterte then promised to help governors with their 2022 bids, saying they need only request a visit from him to their provinces. He also asked them to support the senatorial candidacies of his former Cabinet members – former chief presidential legal counsel Salvador Panelo and former spokesman Harry Roque.
Mamba and other governors are now confused as to who they should support for president in 2022. Like him, many are turning to other political alliances for direction.
The source also said all the politicians in the room were “dazed,” trying to figure out what the President really wanted or the next political steps they would take with the development.
‘Business as usual’
PDP-Laban secretary general Melvin Matibag, who was also at the meeting and dinner with the governors, said Go was just being “candid, honest” about his thoughts, and that the presidential aspirant did not categorically say that he would be backing out of the race.
“Business as usual” for PDP-Laban/PDDS said Matibag, meaning that the Go campaign will continue.
“Hindi niya gagawin ‘yun (He won’t do that),” said Grepor Belgica, when asked about Go withdrawing. Belgica was PDDS’ original presidential candidate.
Go has yet to officially announce his intention to withdraw but has released statements expressing his concerns about running for president. Go said he would leave the final outcome “to God.” – With reports from Bea Cupin/Rappler.com